• Acrylic medium is a white liquid or paste that can be mixed with paints, inks, or glazes to control the material’s consistency and texture. Acrylic mediums are available in different thicknesses and finishes, and dry clear.


  • The ingredients for acrylic mediums are proprietary, and identified only as acrylic polymers. Mayco identifies their acrylic medium as cellulose gum, a cellulose derivative and common thickening agent used in foods, gel products, and as a coating. 1, 2 Acrylic medium may also contain formaldehyde and ammonia. 3


  • Cellulose gum is derived from plant matter, a renewable resource. It is of low toxicity to aquatic life and should not be allowed to enter waterways. 1

Human Health

  • Toxicity warnings vary by brand. Some acrylic mediums are considered low toxicity, causing respiratory, eye and skin irritation. 4 Products containing ammonia and carcinogenic formaldehyde are the most hazardous as they emit harmful fumes that can inflame the respiratory system, skin, and eyes, and increase the likelihood of nasal and throat cancer. 3, 5, 6, 7       

Safe Use and Exposure

  • Work in a well ventilated area or wear breathing protection to avoid the buildup of ammonia and formaldehyde fumes. Wear gloves to prevent skin irritation, and do not eat or smoke while working. If using a powdered medium (i.e. Mayco Silkscreen Medium) wear breathing protection to avoid accidental inhalation of the product.

Proper disposal

  • Do not pour down the drain. 1 Allow unusable acrylic medium to dry in a well ventilated area, and then dispose of in the regular trash. Recycle plastic containers. Donate usable acrylic medium to the givetake.

Safe Alternatives

  • Most brands of acrylic medium are safe to use. Avoid Golden Acrylic Medium 400 and 900 which contain ammonia and formaldehyde. Wear protection when using low toxicity Utrecht and Old Holland acrylic medium, or choose nontoxic alternatives with a “AP” certified label. 3, 4, 8


  1. Mayco Silkscreen Medium MSDS,
  2. “Cellulose Gum”, CP Kelco,
  3. Golden Acrylic Medium MSDS,
  4. “Utrecht Artists’ Acrylic Mediums”,
  5. “Facts About Formaldehyde”, Environmental Protection Agency,
  6. “The Facts About Ammonia”, NY State Deparment of Health,
  7. “What You Should Know About Formaldehyde”, CDC Environmental Health,
  8. New Masters Medium MSDS,